SHAKOPEE (AP) -- Canterbury Park ended its most successful season of live racing on Monday, with the promise of more in the coming years.
Many of the horse people who extolled the benefits of the racetrack's new card club and the larger purses it produced this season were unaware that they will run for even more money next year.
The club opened April 19 and reached $6 million in revenue last Saturday, the annual point at which the percentage earmarked for purses increases to 14 percent from 10 percent. And it took place a month earlier than management's most optimistic prediction.
The sixth season of racing under Sampson family guidance ended Monday with a stirring victory from the 4-year-old Minnesota-bred gelding, Bleu Victoriate, selected earlier in the day as the track's horse of the meet.
Under a smooth ride from Ramon Perez, Bleu Victoriate accelerated out of the turn and finished three-quarters of a length in front of Rookie's Turn in the 1 3/8-mile event.
Two races earlier, another horse from the stable of Canterbury's leading trainer, Doug Oliver, won the Minneapolis Handicap. Valid Leader, under a perfect ride from Chad Anderson, led from gate to wire to finish 2 1/4 lengths in front of I.C. Cindy.
"I'm not shy about saying that this was our best meet yet," said track President Randy Sampson, who was hesitant to give the card club all the credit, however.
"Prior to the card club, things were going in the right direction," he said, "but it is hard to overstate what the card club has done for purses."
Better purses have meant fuller fields and somewhat improved stock as well this summer.
Purses averaged $105,000 a day for the meet. Based on card club proceeds, a figure of $125,000 a day next season is not unlikely.
"We'll have more money to start the meet next year and we'll reach the 14 percent figure even earlier," said Tom Metzen, president of the local chapter of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "This is a real step in the right direction."
Rod Miller of Howard Lake was the leading owner last year, but said the competition is improving.
"I had 12 wins here last year," he said. "This year I had five with 10 seconds and seven thirds. It's getting tougher all the time."
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